|Location||London, United Kingdom|
|Owner||Fairmont Hotels and Resorts|
The Savoy Hotel is a luxury hotel located on the Strand in the City of Westminster in central London. Built by impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte with profits from his Gilbert and Sullivan operas, it opened on 6 August 1889. It was the first in the Savoy group of hotels and restaurants owned by Carte's family for over a century. The Savoy was the first luxury hotel in Britain, introducing electric lights throughout the building, electric lifts, bathrooms in most of the lavishly furnished rooms, constant hot and cold running water, and many other innovations. Carte hired manager César Ritz and French chef Auguste Escoffier, who established an unprecedented standard of quality in hotel service, entertainment and elegant dining, attracting royalty and other wealthy guests and diners. Winston Churchill frequently took his cabinet to lunch at the hotel.
The hotel became Carte's most successful venture. Its bands, Savoy Orpheans and the Savoy Havana Band, became famous, and other entertainers (who were also often guests) included George Gershwin, Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne and Noël Coward. Famous guests have included Edward VII, Enrico Caruso, Charlie Chaplin, Harry Truman, Joan Crawford, Judy Garland, Babe Ruth, Laurence Olivier, Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, Elizabeth Taylor, Barbra Streisand, Bob Dylan, The Beatles and numerous others.
The hotel is now managed by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. It has been called "London's most famous hotel" and remains one of London's most prestigious and opulent hotels, with 268 rooms and panoramic views of the River Thames across Savoy Place and the Thames Embankment. The hotel closed in December 2007 for extensive renovations and reopened in October 2010.
The House of Savoy was the ruling family of Savoy, descended from Humbert I, Count of Sabaudia (or "Maurienne"), who became count in 1032. The name Sabaudia evolved into "Savoy" (or "Savoie"). Count Peter (or Piers or Piero) of Savoy (d. 1268) was the maternal uncle of Eleanor of Provence, queen-consort of Henry III of England, and came with her to London.
King Henry III made Peter Earl of Richmond and, in 1246, gave him the land between the Strand and the River Thames where Peter built the Savoy Palace in 1263. Peter gifted the palace and the manor of the Savoy to the Congregation of Canons of the Great Saint Bernard, and the palace became the "Great Hospital of St Bernard de Monte Jovis in Savoy". The manor was subsequently purchased by Queen Eleanor, who gave the site to her second son, Edmund, Earl of Lancaster. Edmund's great-granddaughter, Blanche, inherited the site. Her husband, John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, built a magnificent palace that was burned down by Wat Tyler's followers in the Peasants' Revolt of 1381. King Richard II was still a child, and his uncle John of Gaunt was the power behind the throne and so a main target of the rebels.
In about 1505, Henry VII planned a great hospital for "pouer, nedie people", leaving money and instructions for it in his will. The hospital was built in the palace ruins and licensed in 1512. Drawings show that it was a magnificent building, with a dormitory, dining hall and three chapels. Henry VII's hospital lasted for two centuries but suffered from poor management. The sixteenth-century historian Stow noted that the hospital was being misused by "loiterers, vagabonds and strumpets". In 1702, the hospital was dissolved, and the hospital buildings were used for other purposes. Part of the old palace was used for a military prison in the eighteenth century. In the nineteenth century, the old hospital buildings were demolished and new buildings erected.
In 1864, a fire burned everything except the stone walls and the Savoy Chapel, and the property sat empty until impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte bought it in 1880 to build the Savoy Theatre specifically for the production of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas, of which he was the producer.
Having seen the opulence of American hotels in his many visits to the U.S., Carte decided to build the first luxury hotel in Britain to attract foreign clientele as well as British tourists who had travelled to London for sightseeing and to attend the theatres. Opened in 1889, the hotel was designed by architect Thomas Edward Collcutt, who also designed the Wigmore Hall. Carte chose the name "Savoy" to memorialize the history of the property. His investors in the venture were, in addition to relatives, Carl Rosa, George Grossmith, François Cellier, George Edwardes, Augustus Harris and Fanny Ronalds. His friend, the composer Sir Arthur Sullivan, was a shareholder and sat on the Board of Directors.
The hotel was built on a plot of land, next to the Savoy Theatre, that Carte originally purchased to house an electrical generator for the theatre (built in 1881), which was the first public building in the world to be lit entirely by electricity. The construction of the hotel took five years and was financed by the profits from the Gilbert and Sullivan partnership, particularly from producing The Mikado. It was the first hotel lit by electric lights and the first with electric lifts. Other innovations included private, en-suite bathrooms in the majority of its 268 rooms, lavishly appointed in marble; constant hot and cold running water in each room, dinner dances, glazed brickwork designed to prevent London's smoke-laden air from spoiling the external walls, and its own Artesian well.
In 1890, Carte hired the hotel's first famous manager, César Ritz, who later became the founder of the Ritz Hotel. Ritz brought in his partners, chef Auguste Escoffier, and maître d'hôtel Louis Echenard. Ritz put together what he described as "a little army of hotel men for the conquest of London", and Escoffier recruited French cooks and reorganised the kitchens. The Savoy under Ritz and his partners soon attracted a distinguished and moneyed clientele, headed by the Prince of Wales. Aristocratic women, hitherto unaccustomed to dining in public, were now "seen in full regalia in the Savoy dining and supper rooms". The hotel became such a financial success that Richard D'Oyly Carte bought other luxury hotels.
At the same time, Ritz continued to manage his own hotels and businesses in Europe. Nellie Melba, among others, noted that Ritz was less focused on the Savoy. In 1897, Ritz and his partners were dismissed from the Savoy. Ritz and Echenard were implicated in the disappearance of over £3,400 (£330,000 as of 2014), of wine and spirits, and Escoffier had been receiving gifts from the Savoy's suppliers. The Savoy group purchased Simpson's-in-the-Strand in 1898. The next year, Carte engaged M. Joseph, proprietor of the Marivaux Restaurant in Paris, as his next maître d'hôtel and in 1900 hired George Reeves-Smith as the next managing director of the Savoy hotel group. Reeves-Smith served in this capacity until 1941.
After Richard D'Oyly Carte died in 1901, his son Rupert D'Oyly Carte became chairman of the Savoy hotel group in 1903 and supervised the expansion of the hotel and the modernisation of the other hotels in the group's ownership, such as Claridge's. The expansion of the hotel in 1903–04 included new east and west wings and moving the main entrance to Savoy Court on the Strand. At that time, the hotel added Britain’s first serviced apartments, with access to all the hotel’s amenities. There were many famous residents, such as Sarah Bernhardt and Sir Thomas Dewar, some of whom lived there for decades. Spectacular parties were held at the hotel. For example, in 1905 American millionaire George A. Kessler hosted a "Gondola Party" where the central courtyard was flooded to a depth of four feet and scenery erected around the walls. Costumed staff and guests recreated Venice. The two dozen guests dined in an enormous gondola. After dinner, Enrico Caruso sang, and a baby elephant brought in a five foot birthday cake.
After the death of his stepmother Helen Carte in 1913, Rupert D'Oyly Carte became the controlling stockholder of the hotel group. In 1919, he sold the Grand Hotel, Rome, which his father had acquired, at the urging of Ritz, in 1894. For the Savoy, he hired a new chef, François Latry, who served from 1919 to 1942. In the 1920s he ensured that the Savoy continued to attract a fashionable clientele by a continuous programme of modernisation and the introduction of dancing in the large restaurants. It also became the first hotel with air conditioning, steam-heating and soundproofed windows in the rooms, 24-hour room service and telephones in every bathroom. It also manufactured its own mattresses. One famous incident during Rupert's early years was the 1923 shooting, at the hotel, of a wealthy young Egyptian, Prince Fahmy Bey, by his French wife, Marguerite. The wife was acquitted of murder after it was revealed that her husband had treated her with extreme cruelty throughout the six-month marriage and had stated that he was going to kill her.
The hotel is famous for its entertainers. George Gershwin gave the British premiere of Rhapsody in Blue at the hotel in 1925, simultaneously broadcast by the BBC. The Savoy Orpheans and the Savoy Havana Band were described as "probably the best-known bands in Europe" and broadcast regularly from the hotel. Carte engaged Richard Collet to run the cabaret at the Savoy, which opened in April 1929. Lena Horne and others made their British debuts there. Frank Sinatra played the piano and sang there. More recently, Amy Winehouse and Michael Ball entertained guests.
Until the 1930s, the Savoy group had not thought it necessary to advertise, but Carte and Reeves-Smith changed their approach. "We are endeavouring by intensive propaganda work to get more customers; this work is going on in the U.S.A., in Canada, in the Argentine and in Europe." In 1937, George VI became the first reigning monarch to dine in any hotel when he attended a private dinner at the Savoy. In 1938 Hugh Wontner joined the Savoy hotel group as Reeves-Smith's assistant, and he became managing director in 1941.
During World War II, Wontner and his staff had to cope with bomb damage, food rationing, manpower shortage, and a serious decline in the number of foreign visitors. After the U.S. entered the war, business picked up as the Savoy Hotel became a favourite of American officers, diplomats, journalists and others. The hotel became a meeting place for war leaders: Winston Churchill often took his cabinet to lunch at the hotel, Lord Mountbatten, Charles de Gaulle, Jan Masaryk and General Wavell were among the regular Grill Room diners, and the hotel's air-raid shelters were "the smartest in London". Wontner co-operated fully with the government's wartime restrictions, helping to draw up an order imposing a five shilling limit on the price of a restaurant meal.
After World War II, the Savoy Group experienced a strike of its employees in support of a waiter dismissed from the hotel. The matter was judged so serious that the government set up a court of inquiry. Nevertheless, the hotel also continued to attract celebrities. Princess Elizabeth was first seen in public with Prince Philip at a wedding reception at the Savoy in 1946. The same year, Wontner set up "The Savoy Management Scheme", a school to train hoteliers, that was maintained for half a century. The last major appointments of Rupert D'Oyly Carte's chairmanship were Wyllie Adolf Hofflin, general manager from 1941 to 1960, and August Laplanche, head chef from 1946 to 1965. When Carte died in 1948, his daughter Bridget did not wish to become chairman, accepting instead the vice-chairman position, and the Savoy board elected Wontner, the first person to combine the roles of chairman and managing director since the Savoy's founder, Richard D'Oyly Carte. Wontner remained managing director until 1979, chairman until 1984 and was president thereafter until 1992.
To mark Queen Elizabeth II's coronation on 2 June 1953, the hotel hosted the Savoy Coronation Ball, attended by 1,400 people, including Hollywood stars, royalty and other notables, who paid 12 guineas (£298 as of 2014), each. Sixteen Yeomen Warders from the Tower of London lined the entrance staircase. The interior of the Savoy was decked in hundreds of yards of dove-grey material and heraldic banners in scarlet and blue and yellow. The design was supervised by Bridget D'Oyly Carte, whose fellow organisers included Cecil Beaton and Ninette de Valois. The cabaret was under the direction of Laurence Olivier, Noël Coward and John Mills.
Under Wontner's leadership, the Savoy appointed its first British head chef, Silvino Trompetto, who was maître-chef from 1965 to 1980. Giles Shepard (1937–2006), succeeded Wontner as managing director from 1979 to 1994 and helped to defend the Savoy Group against Charles Forte's attempt to take control of the Board in the 1980s (Forte gained a majority of the shares, but was unable to take control due to the company's ownership structure). He also introduced competitive salaries for the staff, increased international marketing of the hotel and led the Savoy's centenary celebrations. Ramón Pajares was managing director from 1994 to 1999. The Savoy continued to be a popular meeting place. In 2009, The National reported, "Some hacks were referred to as 'Savoy correspondents' because their job was to park themselves in the lobby and see who came and went. Le tout London was there it seemed, from film stars to businessmen to politicians, all staying or being entertained at the grand old fun palace on the Strand."
Bridget D'Oyly Carte died childless in 1985, bringing an end to her family line. In 1998, American private equity house Blackstone Group purchased the Savoy hotel group. They sold it in 2004 to Quinlan Private, who sold the Savoy Hotel and Simpson's-in-the-Strand eight months later, for an estimated £250 million, to Al-Waleed bin Talal to be managed by Al-Waleed's affiliate, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts of Canada. Quinlan's group retained the rest of the hotels under the name Maybourne Hotel Group.
Refurbishment – present
In December 2007, the hotel was closed to undergo a refit to a design by Pierre Yves Rochon (interiors), ReardonSmith Architects (structural and exteriors) and Buro Happold, the cost of which was originally budgeted at £100 million. The hotel conducted a sale of 3,000 items of its famous furnishings and memorabilia. The projected reopening date was delayed more than a year to October 2010, as structural and systems problems held up construction. The building's façade required extensive stabilisation. The cost of the renovations grew to £220 million. The new energy-efficient design reduced the hotel's reliance on the national electricity grid by approximately 50% and increased reuse and recycling, and the staff was given 'green training'."
The new design features a Thames Foyer with a winter garden gazebo under a stained-glass cupola with natural light, which is the venue for late-night dining and the hotel's famous afternoon tea. The glass dome had been covered since World War II. A new teashop and patisserie is called Savoy Tea, and a glass-enclosed fitness gallery with pool, gym and spa is located above the Savoy Theatre. The new Beaufort Bar has an Art Deco interior of jet-black and gold and offers nightly cabaret. The River Restaurant, facing the Thames, is also decorated in the art deco style, but the American Bar is nearly unchanged. The rooms are decorated in period styles harmonised with the adjacent hallways, and they retain the built-in wardrobes and bedroom cabinets. The decor is Edwardian on the Thames river side and art deco on the Strand side. Butler service was also reintroduced to the hotel. Gordon Ramsay manages the Savoy Grill with Chef Director Stuart Gillies and Head Chef Andy Cook. In a nod to the hotel's origins, there are six private dining rooms named after Gilbert and Sullivan operas. The hotel also contains a small museum next to the American Bar, open to the public, with a revolving exhibition of items from the hotel's archives.
The critic for The Daily Telegraph wrote: "The Savoy is still The Savoy, only better. ... [The rooms] are calm ... you are the personality, not the room. ... [The hotel is] a saviour of The Strand I suspect now. The lobby is bigger and grander, and JUST THE SAME." A review in The Guardian noted that reception "now is sheer sleight of hand. ... In under five minutes I have been expertly drawn into the world of Savoy. [Furniture and furnishings] conspire to enhance my stay". While the same reviewer found the spa disappointing, she gave highest marks to the hotel's personalised service, the Savoy Tea, afternoon tea in the Thames Foyer, and the Beaufort bar, concluding: "The Savoy is back where it belongs – right on top." The Savoy Grill, however, lost its Michelin star and re-opened to mixed reviews. Three years after the re-opening, the owners announced that business has been disappointing, and the hotel is in jeopardy of closing.
Famous guests and the hotel in films and novels
Numerous famous guests have stayed at the hotel. Claude Monet and James Whistler both stayed at the hotel and painted or drew views, from their rooms, of the River Thames. The Savoy featured prominently in guest Oscar Wilde's trial for gross indecency (he had conducted his affair with Lord Alfred Douglas in the hotel). Other celebrity guests in the hotel's early decades included the future King Edward VII, Sarah Bernhardt, Enrico Caruso, Lillie Langtry, H. G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Nellie Melba, Charlie Chaplin, Al Jolson, Errol Flynn, Fred Astaire, Marlene Dietrich, Lionel Barrymore, Harry Truman, Audrey Hepburn, Judy Garland, Josephine Baker, Cary Grant, Babe Ruth, Ivor Novello and Noël Coward. The hotel kept records of its guests’ preferences, so that it could provide them in advance. For Coward, the staff made history by taking the first photographs of a hotel guest's toilet articles so that they could lay them out in his bathroom exactly as he liked them. They made sure to provide a fireproof eiderdown to Barrymore, as he always smoked while reading in bed.
Bob Dylan stayed in the hotel in 1965 and filmed the video clip Subterranean Homesick Blues in an adjacent alley. Frank Sinatra, Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh (the last two met at the hotel), Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Louis Armstrong, Humphrey Bogart, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Richard Harris (who lived at the hotel for the last several years of his life; while being carried out on a stretcher before he died, he joked, "It was the food".), Maria Callas, Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, Sophia Loren, Julie Andrews, Lena Horne, Marlon Brando, Jane Fonda, Barbra Streisand, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Elton John, U2, Led Zeppelin, The Who, George Clooney, Whoopi Goldberg and Stephen Fry are just a few of the celebrities who stayed there in recent decades.
The hotel has often been used as a film location. For example, the romantic finale to the Notting Hill (1999) is set in the hotel's Lancaster Room, where Anna (Julia Roberts) and William (Hugh Grant) declare their mutual love. In 1921, the hotel was used in the film Kipps, based on the novel by H. G. Wells. It also featured in The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981) and Entrapment (1999), among others. In 2011, the hotel was used as the setting for Duran Duran's music video for their song "Girl Panic!" from their album All You Need Is Now.
Arnold Bennett wrote the novel Imperial Palace in 1930 based on his research at the hotel. The novel fictionalises the hotel's operations. Michael Morpurgo wrote a children's book fictionalising the hotel's feline mascot, Kaspar, as an adventurer: Kaspar: Prince of Cats (2008), which was released in the US as Kaspar: The Titanic Cat" (2012).
Restaurants and bars
The hotel has two well-known restaurants: the Grill Room (usually known as the Savoy Grill), on the north side of the building, with its entrance off the Strand, and the Savoy Restaurant (sometimes known as the River Restaurant), on the south side, overlooking the River Thames. The grand River Restaurant, facing the Thames, has long been famous for its inventive chefs, beginning in 1890 with celebrity chef Auguste Escoffier. Escoffier created many famous dishes at the Savoy. In 1893 he invented the pêche Melba in honour of the Australian singer Nellie Melba, and in 1897, Melba toast. Other Escoffier creations were bombe Néro (a flaming ice), fraises à la Sarah Bernhardt (strawberries with pineapple and Curaçao sorbet), baisers de Vierge (meringue with vanilla cream and crystallised white rose and violet petals) and suprêmes de volailles Jeannette (jellied chicken breasts with foie gras). Another signature dish is the Omelette Arnold Bennett.
Under Ritz and Escoffier, evening dress had to be worn in the restaurant, and Ritz was innovative in hiring popular musicians to play background music during dinner and in printing daily menus. Even today, elegant dining at the Savoy includes formal afternoon tea with choral and other performances at Christmas time. The Savoy has a Sunday brunch, including free-flow champagne, and special events, such as New Year's Eve dinner. Kaspar, a 3-foot high art-deco black cat sculpted in 1926 by Basil Ionides, is used as an extra guest when thirteen dine, to stave off bad luck. He is given a full place setting, a napkin is tied around his neck, and he is served each course. August Laplanche was head chef at the hotel from 1946 to 1965, Silvino Trompetto was maître-chef from 1965 to 1980 and Anton Edelmann was maître chef des cuisines for 21 years, between 1982 and 2003. As part of the 2010 refurbishment, the restaurant has been completely redecorated in the art deco style, with a leopard pattern carpet. The head chef is Ryan Murphy.
Gordon Ramsay has managed the less formal Savoy Grill in recent years, employing his former protégé Marcus Wareing, during which it earned its first Michelin star. The Grill was originally "where people go to eat a modest luncheon or to dine on the way to the theatre without spending too much time or too much money." It later became "the home of power lunching in London". Since November 2010, the chef patron has been Stuart Gillies, with head chef Andy Cook.
The Thames Foyer serves breakfast, morning coffee, light lunch and supper, as well as afternoon tea, accompanied by the hotel’s resident pianist. Also part of the hotel buildings is Simpson's-in-the-Strand, featuring classic British style cuisine. Its specialties are aged Scottish beef on the bone, potted shrimps, roast saddle of lamb and steak and kidney pie.
Kaspar's Seafood Bar & Grill, opened in 2013, is named in honour of the hotel's mascot Kaspar. The menu features oysters, cured and smoked fish. The interior design follows the hotel's 1920s style, and the room has views of the Thames and some of London’s landmarks. The restaurant is open all day, seven days a week. A new sculpture of Kaspar decorates the bar.
The American Bar at the Savoy Hotel was one of the early establishments to introduce American-style cocktails to Europe. The term American Bar was used in London to designate the sale of American cocktails from 1878. The Head Barmen, in chronological order, have been as follows:
- Frank Wells, 1893 to 1902.
- Ada "Coley" Coleman, 1903 to 1924. She concocted the Hanky-Panky cocktail for Sir Charles Hawtrey.
- Harry Craddock, 1925 to 1939. The American barman fled 1920s Prohibition in the U.S. to head the Savoy's bars; author of The Savoy Cocktail Book and inventor of such cocktails as the "White Lady".
- Eddie Clark, 1939 to 1942. During World War II, he created a cocktail for each branch of the armed services: "Eight Bells" for the Navy, "New Contemptible" for the Army, and "Wings" for the R.A.F.
- Reginald "Johnnie" Johnson, 1942 to 1954. He invented "Wedding Bells" for the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip.
- Joe Gilmore, 1954 to 1975. Among his many creations was the "Moonwalk" to honour Neil Armstrong's achievement. His hangover cure was two aspirins and a "Corpse Reviver".
- Harry "Vic" Viccars, 1975 to 1981. His cocktails included "Speedbird", one of three drinks created for the first commercial flight of the Concorde in 1976.
- Victor Gower, 1981 to 1985.
- Peter Dorelli, 1985 to 2003. His 1889’er celebrated the hotel's centenary in 1989, and together with Salim Khoury, he created the "Millenium" to celebrate the end of the 20th century.
- Salim Khoury, 2003 to 2010. In 1992, he won the UK Barman of the Year competition by inventing the "Blushing Monarch", inspired by Princess Diana.
- Erik Lorincz, 2010 to present (see also El Malecon cocktail)
The American Bar is decorated in a warm art deco design with cream and ochre walls and electric blue and gold chairs. The walls feature the photos of famous guests. A pianist in the bar plays jazz every day from a baby grand piano in the centre of the room with a live pianist seven days a week, playing classic American Jazz.
The Beaufort Bar is a new bar created in the 2010 renovation specializing in champagne as well as cocktails. Decorated in an Art Deco design of jet-black and gold intended to evoke old-fashioned glamour, it offers nightly cabaret.
The Savoy Cocktail Book
In 1930, the Savoy Hotel first published its cocktail book, The Savoy Cocktail Book, with 750 recipes compiled by Harry Craddock of the American Bar and art deco "decorations" by Gilbert Rumbold. The book has remained in print since then and was subsequently republished in 1952, 1965, 1985, 1996 and expanded in 1999 with some new text and a number of new cocktails added by Peter Dorelli.
Savoy Court is the only named street in the United Kingdom where vehicles are required to drive on the right. This is said to date from the days of the hackney carriage when a cab driver would reach his arm out of the driver's door window to open the passenger's door (which opened backwards and had the handle at the front), without having to get out of the cab himself. Additionally, the hotel entrance's small roundabout meant that vehicles needed a turning circle of 25 ft (8 m) to navigate it. This is still the legally required turning circle for all London cabs.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Savoy Hotel.|
- Pathe footage of film star's cocktail party in 1947
- "Famous Hotels in the World - London: The Savoy". 4Hoteliers. 30 October 2006. Retrieved 20 June 2009.
- Daily Mail article with pre-renovation photos
- Daily Mail article with post-renovation photos
- Purr 'n' Fur: Kaspar, of the Savoy
- 2010 photo of the hotel